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  1. A conventional optical lens can be used to focus light into the target medium from outside, without disturbing the medium. The focused spot size is proportional to the focal distance in a conventional lens, resulting in a tradeoff between penetration depth in the target medium and spatial resolution. We have shown that virtual ultrasonically sculpted gradient-index (GRIN) optical waveguides can be formed in the target medium to steer light without disturbing the medium. Here, we demonstrate that such virtual waveguides can relay an externally focused Gaussian beam of light through the medium beyond the focal distance of a single external physical lens, to extend the penetration depth without compromising the spot size. Moreover, the spot size can be tuned by reconfiguring the virtual waveguide. We show that these virtual GRIN waveguides can be formed in transparent and turbid media, to enhance the confinement and contrast ratio of the focused beam of light at the target location. This method can be extended to realize complex optical systems of external physical lenses and in situ virtual waveguides, to extend the reach and flexibility of optical methods.

     
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